Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams on Monday dismissed concerns by his predecessor Anil Nandlall about efforts being made to set up a law school in Guyana, saying that it would be recognised by the Caribbean Council of Legal Education.
Williams, in stark contradiction to Nandlall, said Guyana still has permission to establish a local law school and that the two entities that are spearheading the project are recognised by the Caribbean Council of Legal Education.
The Attorney General said the CCLE, which is enshrined in law across the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom), would be governing the operations of the Guyana Law School. “It is under the aegis of the CLE. They have to abide by their rules,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
He added that the CLE last year renewed its almost 20-year old permission for Guyana to set up a law school that awards the Certificate of Legal Education that allows Law Degree holders to practice at the Bar. “The Council has given Guyana, a founding member of Caricom, to establish a law school here and that was reconfirmed at the last Council of Legal Education meeting that we had in September in Antigua,” Williams said.
However, Nandlall said that option was no longer available to Guyana. He could not confirm definitively whether the CCLE had withdrawn its support for the setting up a law school here.
The CLE is responsible for regulatory standards and quality of legal education being delivered by the Norman Manley, Hugh Wooding and Eugene Dupuche Law Schools in Jamaica, Trinidad and The Bahamas respectively. “It is under that umbrella. Those are the way we see things so let’s hope that it’s a project that is viable,” Williams added.
Guyana earlier this month inked an agreement with the University College of the Caribbean and the Law College of the Americas, institutions that former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Nandlall described as “unknown academic institutions.” “Speaking for myself, I have never heard of them and I have been educated in the Caribbean and I have travelled the length and breadth of the Caribbean. I do not know who in Guyana knows of them,” said Nandlall.
If established, the law school the University College of the Caribbean and the Law College of the Americas would have a 70 percent shareholding with Guyana’s 30 percent being the provision of land to build the institution.
However, Nandlall warned against the establishment of a law school that would see the country flouting the regional integration process in response to “populist sentiment”. He suggested that such an “insular move” could see Guyanese law school graduates being qualified to practice locally. Nandlall wants to know whether the Guyana market could absorb more than 25 lawyers annually and it the quality of the course content would be in keeping with the CCLE’s standards.
However, the Attorney General said Guyana hopes to cater for an estimated 80 University of Guyana Law Degree graduates annually including those from sister Caricom countries. Williams said it would cost less to study in Guyana than at the Hugh Wooding Law School where most Guyanese attend.
Recommendations have been made for the CCLE to cease operating law schools across the Caribbean, but instead serve as an accreditation and regulatory body for existing and new schools.
The Hugh Wooding Law School has over the years complained bitterly about the shortage of space for the growing number of students who attend that Trinidad-based institution.